A level or GCE A level - reformed Ofqual accredited (First awarded 2017)

Last updated
Last verified
First teaching 2015
First A level award 2017

This QIP refers to the reformed Ofqual accredited A level from first teaching 2015.

  • England
  • Northern Ireland (due to the qualification open market arrangement.)
  • Wales (where there is no specification designed to meet new Welsh Government requirements.)

The purpose of the reformed Ofqual accredited A level, as set out in Ofqual’s Qualification Level Conditions and Requirements is as follows:

  • define and assess achievement of the knowledge, skills and understanding which will be needed by students planning to progress to undergraduate study at a UK higher education establishment, particularly (although not only) in the same subject area; 
  • set out a robust and internationally comparable post-16 academic course of study to develop that knowledge, skills and understanding;
  • permit UK universities to accurately identify the level of attainment of students;provide a basis for school and college accountability measures at age 18; and
  • provide a benchmark of academic ability for employers.
Education context

AS and A levels are the qualifications that the majority of young people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland use to gain entry to university.

The reformed Ofqual accredited AS and A levels will be available in some subjects in England and Northern Ireland (where the open qualifications market operates) from September 2015, with first A level exams being sat in 2017.

The introduction of reformed Ofqual accredited AS and A levels will be phased. A list of the subjects being reformed for first teaching from September 2015, see subject areas list below.

The following types of AS and A levels will be available for use in schools in England from September 2015:

  • Reformed AS and A levels for first teaching September 2015, accredited by Ofqual, and offered by AQA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC Eduqas.
  • All current AS and A levels offered by AQA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC in unreformed subjects.
  • As part of CCEA's withdrawal plan there is still a resit opportunity in England, and a cash-in opportunity possibly into summer 2016.

Note that students in Wales will be able to undertake Ofqual accredited A level qualifications in subjects where there is no specification designed to meet new Welsh Government requirements.

Further information about the reformed qualifications can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/gcse-as-and-a-level-reforms and https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/timeline-of-changes-to-gcses-as-and-a-levels.

Awarding organisations
  • AQA
  • WJEC Eduqas
  • OCR
  • Pearson (Edexcel)

Reformed Ofqual accredited A levels are linear in their structure and are designed to be delivered over two-years with terminal exams and, in some cases, non-exam assessment.

The reformed Ofqual accredited AS, which can be co-taught alongside the A level, will no longer contribute towards the final A level grade. For further information please see the QIP for the AS – reformed Ofqual accredited.

Subject areas
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • English language
  • English literature
  • English literature and language
  • Art and design
  • Business
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • History
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Level 3

Whilst both the AS and A level are Level 3 qualifications, assessment within the AS is regarded as less demanding than that of the A level.


A* - E (unchanged in level of demand)

From 2015, revised Ofqual accredited science A levels (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) will include a separate result for the practical element of the qualification. This separate grade will be pass/not classified. Some students will be 'exempt' due to a disability, this will be marked on the certificate.


Reformed Ofqual accredited A levels will be linear in their structure, with all assessment at the end of the qualification.

Students will sit a terminal examination, and, in some cases, undertake non-exam assessment.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Reformed A levels are linear and therefore do not need a Uniform Mark Scale (UMS). This was only needed for modular unit assessment to standardise means across units taken at different times of the year. In the linear system, with all assessment taking place in the summer, this is not needed.

In England and in other countries where Ofqual accredited A levels operate, the UMS process is not required.

The vast majority of A levels are examined at the end of the course. However, in some subjects there is an element of non-exam assessment. For example in English literature, English language, English language and literature, computer science and history 20% of the available marks are for non-exam assessment but in art and design, 100% of the marks are available through non-exam assessment. This webpage gives a list of all non-exam assessment per A Level subject https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/as-and-a-level-changes-a-summary/summary-of-changes-to-as-and-a-levels-from-2015.

The reformed Ofqual accredited AS qualification is standalone and does not contribute to the final grade.

Grade boundaries for the A level are defined after examinations have been sat.

Resit arrangements

Resits for reformed A levels are taken the following summer (2018).

Guided/notional learning hours
360 hours
UCAS Tariff points

A level

Grade Points
A* 56
A 48
B 40
C 32
D 24
E 16


Key issues for UK HE admissions

Whilst both the AS and A level are Level 3 qualifications, assessment within the AS is regarded as less demanding than that of the A level.

The 2017 and 2018 admissions cycle will see large numbers of applicants applying to HE with a mixture of new and current AS and A levels due to the staggered reform timetable.

AS and A levels accredited in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will differ in terms of structure, content and assessment arrangements. Grading will remain the same.

Not all applicants will choose to study AS qualifications.

Ofqual accredited Science A levels will contain two grades. Any university that requires a practical grade should make this clear in their entry requirements.

There is no UMS for reformed A levels.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Reformed Ofqual accredited A levels will continue to be taken in May/June and results will continue to be made available mid-August.

Qualification date
Starting from 01 Sep 2015
Reporting and certification information

Grade distributions by subject and total entries by subject are published by the Joint Council for Qualifications: www.jcq.org.uk

Further information

Link to rules, regulations and guidance for the reformed A levels and AS qualifications (taught from September 2015) published by Ofqual: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/new-a-level-and-as-level-qual…

Links to awarding organisation websites and specifications: